MARTIN O'NEILL has admitted that he is worried by the lack of young players knocking on the door after naming a squad for next month's friendly with Serbia dominated by the core of the Giovanni Trapattoni era.
The panel for the March 5 encounter is the first selected by O'Neill and, after indicating that Shay Given and Stephen Ireland need more certainty about their club futures before their claims for a recall can be seriously considered, the only slight surprise is the inclusion of Ipswich striker Daryl Murphy following a six-year break from the international scene.
O'Neill conceded that his initial belief upon taking over from Trapattoni was that half a dozen younger options might crop up over the winter, but that scenario has failed to materialise.
He is keen on Chelsea striker Patrick Bamford – now on-loan at Derby – yet there are huge doubts over his Irish future, given he won an English U-21 cap in November.
"It is a real concern," said O'Neill. "In the back of my mind, I thought: 'Well, there must be five, six, seven young lads playing who will maybe break through' and that may be the case, but at this minute I haven't spotted any. There are obviously one or two exceptions, who, at this moment, have not, through the eligibility rule, declared that they want to play for Ireland, but outside of that, no, I haven't seen it. He (Bamford) has not ruled himself out. I went to see him play and he has endless ability, but there's only so much you can do."
Skipper Robbie Keane will not make the journey from Los Angeles as his MLS season starts three days later, while Richard Dunne is part of the original 29 man squad, but may be cut when it is reduced to 23 because of QPR's March schedule.